Image: Santa Claus © Digital Vision Getty Images

Everyone knows Santa is a busy man. It’s not just keeping track of who’s naughty and nice. He’s a letter reader, list double-checker, manufacturing executive, sleigh driver, reindeer wrangler, product distributor and more.

All told, Santa would earn $134,944 this year, according to our analysis of wages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's up 1.5% from last year's Santa Index of $132,950.

Determining how much it would cost to replace someone's income -- or the unpaid work a person does for a family -- is an important step in deciding how much life insurance to buy. Of course, no one could replace Santa, nor will the world ever need to. Nonetheless, following are some of the tasks we considered when compiling this year's Santa Index:

Industrial engineer. Making toys might sound like fun and games, but it's not child's play. As an industrial engineer running the North Pole workshop, Santa supervises the design, development and testing of every gadget and trinket the elves produce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job includes quality and inventory control, cost analysis, logistics and management of human -- er, elf, -- work factors. Annual earnings for eight hours a day every day: $111,792.

  • Labor relations specialist. Elves are a merry bunch, but that doesn't mean disputes don't erupt. Coordinating grievance procedures, handling complaints and resolving disagreements are all part of Santa's job. We figure he spends at least half an hour a day dealing with elf labor issues. Annual earnings: $5,167.
  • Correspondence clerk. The millions of letters from children can't go unread. Fortunately, Santa is a speed-reader. An hour a day as a correspondence clerk for 100 days a year would earn him $1,656.

  • Professional shopper. Think of the nightmare on Christmas morning if Santa didn't carefully select who received which toy. Susie would get the pair of skates, and Johnny would get the sled. Poor Nelly would get a storybook she's already read. Eight hours a day, 15 days a year spent selecting presents would yield $2,303.
  • Rancher. Reindeer don't take care of themselves. Santa feeds and cleans up after the herd, supervises reindeer games and steps in when name-calling gets out of hand. Annual earnings for one hour a day every day: $4,234.
  • Private investigator. Seeing you sleeping, knowing when you're awake and tracking the naughty and nice would normally be a 24/7 operation. If he squeezes in an hour of sleuthing a day in the month leading up to Christmas, the annual earnings would be $701.
  • Accounting clerk. Making lists and checking them twice for an hour a day during December would bring in $401.
  • Shipping and receiving clerk. The miracle of single-handedly distributing toys to every boy and girl overnight earns Santa a grand total of $146.50. Beat that, Federal Express.
  • Pilot. Guided only by the red glow of a reindeer nose, Santa drives his sleigh through the foggy night air and performs millions of rooftop takeoffs and landings. Average earnings for an airline pilot for 10 hours: $568.

Although carefully calculated, our Santa Index has one limitation. Nowhere in the federal labor data is a wage statistic for holiday magic making. That, dear readers, is priceless.

The Santa Index 2012: Earnings details

Santa’s job

BLS occupation used

Hours per day

Days per year

Mean hourly wage

Annual earnings

Manufacturing executive (workshop)

Industrial engineers

8

364

$38.39

$111,792

Professional shopper

Sales and related workers

8

15

$19.19

$2,303

Wrapper

Packers and packagers, hand

12

14

$10.81

$1,816

Labor negotiator (with elves)

Labor relations specialists

0.5

365

$28.31

$5,167

Letter reader

Correspondence clerks

1

100

$17.04

$1,656

Company representative in mall

Customer service representatives

8

21

$15.92

$2,675

Investigator (knows if you’ve been bad or good)

Private detectives and investigators

1

30

$23.37

$701

List checker (checking it twice)

Bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks

1

30

$13.38

$401

Taking care of reindeer

Farmworkers, farm, ranch and aquacultural animals

1

365

$11.60

$4,234

Snow plow driver

Highway maintenance workers

0.5

360

$17.47

$3,145

Pilot

Airline pilots, co-pilots and flight engineers

10

1

$56.76

$568

Going down chimneys (chimney sweep)

Building cleaning workers

10

1

$13.89

$139

Cookie and milk taster

Agricultural inspectors

10

1

$20.25

$203

Deliveries via sleigh (distributor)

Shipping, receiving and traffic clerks

10

1

$14.65

$147

Announcer (“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”)

Public address system and other announcers

0.01

1

$19.17

19 cents

Total:

$134,944

Wage source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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